TACLOBAN CITY, June 24 (PNA) -– Northern Samar Governor Jose L. Ong has dismissed claims of the New People’s Army (NPA) that their family is behind the illegal drugs trade in the impoverished province.
“I don’t know where the NPA got that information. It’s their practice to accuse anybody without any basis,” Ong told reporters here.
The armed rebel has raised question on its website why illicit drugs has proliferated since Ong became a governor in 2013.
“Why is it that under their watch the problem of illegal drugs has become so bad it is being sold even to elementary students and in remote towns where this was previously unknown?,” asked National Democratic Front (NDF) Eastern Visayas spokesman Fr. Santiago Salas.
NPA is NDF’s armed wing and has been present in some upland villages of Northern Samar province.
Ong said they’re not surprised with the rebel’s claim especially that his leadership is active in combating insurgency.
“Maybe they were disappointed that their candidate for governor lost in the May 2016,” said the governor, who ran against Catholic priest Walter Cerbito, reportedly backed by rebels in the last elections.
Although Northern Samar province has been tagged by the NPA as one of their strongholds, Ong believed that the armed rebels are losing its grip in some hinterland villages.
“I was surprised that I got more votes in known NPA-infested areas than my opponent,” he recalled.
However, the NPA said they are very active in the province through the presence of Rodante Urtal Command. In fact, they will launch a probe into the illegal drugs trade in the province and the possible role of the Ong clan.
“We call on the Ongs to support the NPA’s investigation and have themselves cleared. But if they refuse, and there is evidence they are indeed involved in the illegal drugs trade, the people’s court can order the Rodante Urtal Command to arrest them.”
The NPA also accused the governor’s brother, outgoing Northern Samar 2nd district Rep. Emil Ong, and Emil’s son Edwin, the congressman-elect.
“They have to show a proof because anybody can make allegations. I can issue a statement accusing them as protectors of drug pushers, but I don’t do that,” he added.
The official reiterated that he is completely against illegal drugs trade. Indeed, the provincial government will gather all stakeholders in a summit to discuss illegal drugs elimination strategies.
“The timing is right because anti-drugs campaign is the focus of the incoming administration,” Ong said.
Northern Samar, the farthest Eastern Visayas province from the regional capital, is the poorest among six provinces in 2015 with an incidence of 61.6 percent, which means that six out of every 10 people in the province are poor. (PNA)
PGL/SARWELL Q. MENIANO